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Summit County officials address coronavirus concerns in Q&A video

An isolation room is pictured at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco on March 6.
Liz Copan / ecopan@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — Summit County officials recently released a ‘Q&A’ style video addressing community questions about the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 following the appearance of both the state and county’s first presumptive positive case. Summit County put out a call for community questions on the Summit County Emergency Blog Friday night to be answered in the segment.

County manager Scott Vargo introduced the segment by explaining that there are now a number of cases in Colorado counties and that officials expect there to be more cases in the state and likely within Summit County.

The presumptive positive case in Summit County

A primary concern for community members is the whereabouts of the patient who tested positive for coronavirus while he was in Summit County. Environmental health manager Dan Hendershott said that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has taken over the case investigation and is no longer releasing location information about the individual unless that information is necessary to control the spread of the virus.

Hendershott pointed out that the coronavirus is spread by close contact, meaning less than six feet of separation between an individual and an infected individual for more than 10 minutes at a time. 

“Based on this we don’t feel like fellow consumers at a restaurant or that sort of thing are put at elevated risk,” Hendershott said.

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Public health director Amy Wineland said that three individuals were considered the most at risk following the incident: the housekeeper, someone who brought towels to the room and an individual who replaced batteries in the carbon monoxide alarm in the unit.

Aside from the housekeeper, individuals weren’t in the room for longer than 10 minutes and were not in close contact with the individual. The housekeeper cleaned the room 23 hours after the individual had left. Hendershott said that the unit will remain unoccupied until it’s cleaned according to the CDC recommendations for these types of cases.

Hendershott added that the property management company of the Slopeside Condominiums, where the individual stayed, has received recommended routine cleaning procedures of high contact surfaces. He added that officials don’t believe residents in neighboring units in the Slopeside Condominiums or those who had used public spaces such as chairlifts or a hot tub after the individual are at elevated risk of exposure. 

County commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence explained that the individual who tested positive for the virus didn’t know he was contagious when he traveled. Lawrence said that the individual had been to Italy and that his traveling partner tested positive for coronavirus after the two returned to their home state of California.

Lawrence added that the individual felt fine while traveling and that it wasn’t until days into his stay where he started to present symptoms and subsequently isolated himself and called the hospital.

How the virus spreads

Hendershott said that current information suggests the virus can live for several hours or potentially up to several days on a surface. Officials believe the virus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an affected person coughs or sneezes. While the virus can land on surfaces including doorknobs, handrails and elevator buttons, this type of transmission to humans has not been documented and isn’t believed to be the primary mode of transmission. 

“The best tool that people have is themselves when it comes to preventing the spread of this illness,” Wineland said. 

Wineland reiterated proper hygiene and recommendations, which includes frequent washing of hands for at least 20 seconds, using 60% alcohol hand sanitizer, staying home when sick, etc. She added that officials may recommend community actions to slow exposure if necessary, which may include temporarily shutting down nonessential businesses and public transportation. 

Community members asked about how the disease compares to the flu. Wineland said that coronavirus and the flu virus are similar in terms of symptoms and transmission. One of the key differences is that there are currently antiviral medications and a vaccine for the flu, but not for COVID-19.

“When there is a novel virus it causes a lot of worry because we don’t know much about it. We can’t determine whether it is more severe than the flu at this point because we just don’t have the data yet,” Wineland said.

Possible changes to daily life in Summit County

Wineland said that while St. Anthony Summit Medical Center will continue to collect samples for coronavirus testing as necessary, there is still only one presumptive positive case. She said that the public will be notified if this number increases.

One question that was asked was when officials might deem it necessary to close public spaces such as ski resorts or schools. Lawrence said officials are monitoring the situation, but that at this time it is business as usual in Summit County. Wineland said the state is developing criteria and guidance for locals and that local officials also have the authority to “do what’s right” for the community.

Hendershott noted that if service workers (like those in childcare or food service) are sick with a communicable disease, regulations don’t allow them to stay at work. Lawrence discussed the economy, stating that health and safety is the officials’ chief priority, but that it’s important to not overreact and unnecessarily affect the local economy.

While Wineland pointed out that over 80% of coronavirus patients have mild symptoms, older adults should be hypervigilant and not go to community gatherings, plan to stay home and to make sure they have medications for a long period of time.

FRISCO — Summit County officials recently released a ‘Q&A’ style video addressing community questions about the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 following the appearance of both the state and county’s first presumptive positive case. Summit County put out a call for community questions on the Summit County Emergency Blog Friday night to be answered in the segment.

County manager Scott Vargo introduced the segment by explaining that there are now a number of cases in Colorado counties and that officials expect there to be more cases in the state and likely within Summit County.

The presumptive positive case in Summit County

A primary concern for community members is the whereabouts of the patient who tested positive for coronavirus while he was in Summit County. Environmental health manager Dan Hendershott said that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has taken over the case investigation and is no longer releasing location information about the individual unless that information is necessary to control the spread of the virus.

Hendershott pointed out that the coronavirus is spread by close contact, meaning less than six feet of separation between an individual and an infected individual for more than 10 minutes at a time. 

“Based on this we don’t feel like fellow consumers at a restaurant or that sort of thing are put at elevated risk,” Hendershott said.

Public health director Amy Wineland said that three individuals were considered the most at risk following the incident: the housekeeper, someone who brought towels to the room and an individual who replaced batteries in the carbon monoxide alarm in the unit.

Aside from the housekeeper, individuals weren’t in the room for longer than 10 minutes and were not in close contact with the individual. The housekeeper cleaned the room 23 hours after the individual had left. Hendershott said that the unit will remain unoccupied until it’s cleaned according to the CDC recommendations for these types of cases.

Hendershott added that the property management company of the Slopeside Condominiums, where the individual stayed, has received recommended routine cleaning procedures of high contact surfaces. He added that officials don’t believe residents in neighboring units in the Slopeside Condominiums or those who had used public spaces such as chairlifts or a hot tub after the individual are at elevated risk of exposure. 

County commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence explained that the individual who tested positive for the virus didn’t know he was contagious when he traveled. Lawrence said that the individual had been to Italy and that his traveling partner tested positive for coronavirus after the two returned to their home state of California.

Lawrence added that the individual felt fine while traveling and that it wasn’t until days into his stay where he started to present symptoms and subsequently isolated himself and called the hospital.

How the virus spreads

Hendershott said that current information suggests the virus can live for several hours or potentially up to several days on a surface. Officials believe the virus spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an affected person coughs or sneezes. While the virus can land on surfaces including doorknobs, handrails and elevator buttons, this type of transmission to humans has not been documented and isn’t believed to be the primary mode of transmission. 

“The best tool that people have is themselves when it comes to preventing the spread of this illness,” Wineland said. 

Wineland reiterated proper hygiene and recommendations, which includes frequent washing of hands for at least 20 seconds, using 60% alcohol hand sanitizer, staying home when sick, etc. She added that officials may recommend community actions to slow exposure if necessary, which may include temporarily shutting down nonessential businesses and public transportation. 

Community members asked about how the disease compares to the flu. Wineland said that coronavirus and the flu virus are similar in terms of symptoms and transmission. One of the key differences is that there are currently antiviral medications and a vaccine for the flu, but not for COVID-19.

“When there is a novel virus it causes a lot of worry because we don’t know much about it. We can’t determine whether it is more severe than the flu at this point because we just don’t have the data yet,” Wineland said.

Possible changes to daily life in Summit County

Wineland said that while St. Anthony Summit Medical Center will continue to collect samples for coronavirus testing as necessary, there is still only one presumptive positive case. She said that the public will be notified if this number increases.

One question that was asked was when officials might deem it necessary to close public spaces such as ski resorts or schools. Lawrence said officials are monitoring the situation, but that at this time it is business as usual in Summit County. Wineland said the state is developing criteria and guidance for locals and that local officials also have the authority to “do what’s right” for the community.

Hendershott noted that if service workers (like those in childcare or food service) are sick with a communicable disease, regulations don’t allow them to stay at work. Lawrence discussed the economy, stating that health and safety is the officials’ chief priority, but that it’s important to not overreact and unnecessarily affect the local economy.

While Wineland pointed out that over 80% of coronavirus patients have mild symptoms, older adults should be hypervigilant and not go to community gatherings, plan to stay home and to make sure they have medications for a long period of time.


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